1st XV v Navan (A) 29.01.22

Navan RFC V St Mary’s College RFC

28                           36

Energia AIL Division 1 B

Balreask Old

Saturday 29th January 2022.



They were right “Tis only an hour to Navan” But wrong, there is more than one “Navan Man”.

Thank you all, you turned up in good numbers. It was uplifting to hear the Marys-Marys-Marys, when it was needed in the second half. It turned out to be stimulant to the team. Make no mistake this was no easy ride, it was a tough joust. No matter how motivated and coached, the human psyche can be strangely idiosyncratic.   Navan’s position and the fact that we had put over 40 points on them last time, could not be obliterated from the mind. It just fed a scintilla of insouciance by the team which played out in some errors and decisions.  The supporters won’t have recovered yet from the palpitations and apnoeic episodes near the end. It has to be said that the Navan team were worthy opponents and deserved what they got from the game. It is also true that St Mary’s played some good rugby and deserved the victory along with the five points, even if there was an overall lack of the controlled urgency of last week.

There were some fine performances on the Marys’ team, but two players stood out, both with coruscating performances. David Aspil and Richard Halpin.  David is the epitome of a Six, and today he did all the things a Six should do and did them with excellence.  He is a real team player, he plays from the front with heavy-duty carrying, tackling and clever support play.  He never shirks, he is formidable and fearless. He is a superb player and a fine person. He carried out of trouble on several occasions. Early in the second half, Navan put in a major offensive and David was to the fore with his teammates, in the counter offensive; near the end when our position was in peril, he made an excellent break, before feeding mercurial Ryan O’Loughlin, who finished off with aplomb.

The skipper, Richard Halpin, was a true paladin today, and showed why he is captain and leader. In his first duties as a hooker and front row player, scrummaging, lineout management and throwing-in, he was impeccable.  He led in every way, his tackle count was high and faultless, his carrying relentless and directional, his support play was excellent and leadership constant and reassuring. He scored two tries.  All aspects of his play from the start to the end, decided his being awarded the SoftCo MoM award.   

The Game

Once again this was a game when all 21 players were important to the win, for those coming off the bench contributed handsomely to the win. The set pieces were strong, with the lineout steady, and even without mighty Michael McCormack (out with a broken finger), the scrum was secure with all four props. Podge Dundon, whose only AIL start so far was today, did well, he was strong in the scrum, blocked and lifted well, got a good turnover and he made some fine carries.

Marys started slowly, having lost the kick off, let Navan in for a converted try from the first movement of the game, but then worked a way back into it.  It was only seven minutes gone, when we got a penalty, went to the corner and from the succeeding lineout and well-formed maul, we forced our way over; Richie touched down. 7-5. We started to put pace on the game, and on 17 minutes after a kick ahead and an error by a defender behind the Navan line, they were forced to drop out from the line and the ball was taken up by hard running Mick O’Gara and via Craig Kennedy it got to fellow centre Myles Carey and he streaked in for a good try.  It was now 7-10.  We were looking a little more secure now. However, on 25 minutes, a kick ahead by Navan was dropped into touch on our 5 metre line by a defender.  From their lineout they formed a maul and got over to make the score 14-10.  This put more urgency on the visitors’ game and they got a period of possession, with excellent movement and width, this paid dividends, for on 32 minutes following a good build-up of carries, the captain, Richie, took an acute angled vector, he lashed free and over for a fine try.  Deano converted and it was 14-17.

Only three minutes later, Navan got a penalty, and from the lineout on the 5 metres they mauled, and a man slipped off the maul to score a well worked try.  It was now 21—17.  We attacked nonstop for the rest of the half, won penalties and battered the line but could not score.  They received a yellow card for a deliberate knock on, when it seemed a certain try, but the referee was not happy it would most likely be a try. Anyway, 21-17, is how the half ended. We lost our star Eight, Ronan Watters, (dead leg) at the end of the half, for the rest of the game.

The second half, started with Navan raising their game and they attacked from the start.  They had a break up the centre. Niall Hurley zipped back to make a superb cover tackle and avert the danger.  We fought back into it and on 66 minutes following an assault on the Navan line, the ball flashed out to Conor Dean who beat two men and scored in the corner. It was now 21-22. We were really in overdrive and the bench was showing its worth, with Conor Corcoran and Daniel Leane making an impact as were the returning Mark Fogarty, Ryano, and Tommer.

It was starting to feel a little uncomfortable however, with one point difference. The Marys’ support was doing its bit, Marys-Marys-Marys. Then on 79 minutes, a wonderful series of forays and drives, the ball was swung out to dazzling Dave Aspil who swept two defenders aside and fairly flew towards the line, then he timed his pass perfectly to Ryan O’Loughlin outside him, and he did the rest, sizzling along the line and over in a dive (no, not a tenement!). A marvellous conversion by Deano, saw the score go to 21-29.  Were we there? No! We attacked again, however, a forward pass gave Navan a scrum, and they ran the ball, with a fine movement to the wing, with a support overlap, they scored under the posts, 28-29.  Still not over, the Marys’ support quaked.  We kicked off and Navan tried to run it out, dropped the ball, a hack, and vigilant Myles scooped up the ball, left defenders grasping, and scored under the posts, 28-36.  Final score.

Afterwards, the now coterie, of dedicated and wonderful parents, Halpins, Watters, Careys, Kennedys, Fogartys, Fanagans, Deans, McEvoys, Corcorans, Hurleys, McCormacks, O’Reillys and McEniffs (These are just the ones seen), beamed brightly and hugged their protégées. They are a happy, bright bunch and we would hope all (not already in) will stay involved in the club, and enjoy the genuine camaraderie, sociability and our rugby, which is developing and expanding.

This was a double decker fixture, with the J2s having an entertaining game V Navan, afterwards.

Well we did not move on the table, even with our five points, but closed the gap by a point on Highfield.  So we are 3rd with 39 points, behind Old Wesley 1st, 49 points, Highfield 2nd, 43. Naas remain fourth (36) and Shannon fifth (33).

We have a break until 19th February, when we face strong rivals, Old Belvedere, in a local derby, down in Ollie Campbell Park.  It will be a very difficult visit.  We are hoping Michael McCormack and recovering, Hugo Conway will be back. We have six games left in the suite of league games.  We have Shannon to visit us and a trip to Armagh to whet appetites for the last two games against the top two clubs. So lots to look forward to. Meanwhile enjoy the 6 Nations. Come back ready and able to give Richie a Halpin hand.

D O’Brien

Team (12 changes)

15 D Fanagan, 14 M Timmons, 13 M Carey, 12 M O’Gara, 11 C Kennedy, 10 C Dean, 9 A McEvoy, 8 R Watters, 7 N Hurley, 6 D Aspil, 5 L Corcoran, 4 P Starrett, 3 P Dundon, 2 R Halpin (Capt.) 1 D Lyons, N McEniff, D Leane, M Fogarty, C Corcoran, R O’Loughlin.